For the superstitious-minded, and for the bemusingly large contingent of folk who think Erik Morales has a realistic chance of upsetting junior welterweight Marcos Maidana, the events of Friday evening on ESPN2 and ShoBox have to be something like omens for what comes Saturday night. First, highly-touted middleweight prospect David Lemieux lost on Friday Night Fights (as Scott wrote about below). Then, on ShoBox — per Showtime commentator Steve Farhood — the underdog lost in all three fights. Down went Willie Nelson, Danny O’Connor and Marcus Johnson. Up went Vincent Arroyo, Gabriel Bracero and Dyah Davis.
Johnson, a super middleweight prospect who had won a considerable contingent of believers, has always flashed moments of brilliance interspersed with moments of lackadaisical laissez-faire. He had fewer moments of brilliance in this fight than the other kind, although Davis sure made it hard on him to exhibit the good stuff with all that moving, which bordered on “running.” But it worked. Especially since Johnson once more had trouble making weight, as Farhood pointed out. And look, I’m not trying to ride Farhood’s jock, but A. if there’s a jock I could ride, there are worse choices and B. he was right about this one, I suspect. I can’t say I scored the fight closely enough to judge whether the decision that the judges rendered was fair, although I thought it closer than they did — in a fight where little happened, Johnson was more often the aggressor, and that often tips me. But I can’t say Johnson did much to deserve the win, either, since he suffered a body shot knockdown late in the fight and really struggled to do any damage throughout. Good for Davis for getting a career-best win and effectively implementing his game plan, but since Johnson was the “prospect” in this fight, it’s inevitable that the focus would be on him. He needs to move up in weight, or fight with urgency all the time, or both.
Gabriel Bracero vs. Danny O’Connor was the best pillow fight of 2011, since there was a lot of leather exchanged between these feather-fisted junior welterweights. The thing is, Bracero’s pillows were straighter, sharper, flusher. So, he wins. I’ve seen O’Connor look better before than he did Friday, but Bracero was that much better Friday, bloodying and damaging O’Connor’s face all night long. I gave O’Connor one round. I don’t personally mind feather-fisted guys, so long as they are willing to take risks, and so Bracero — who couldn’t have been much of an underdog, among the evening’s upsets — is fine by me. I’m not sure where he goes next, though.
The welterweight bout between Arroyo and Nelson was the best of the trio. Arroyo scored knockdowns on left hooks in the 3rd and 6th, then on a straight right in the 8th — and yet, because it would be reasonable to have Nelson winning the other five rounds, one judge scored it a draw and Arroyo only narrowly won the decision on the other two cards. In the 3rd, don’t forget, Arroya was deduced a point for holding. it was a wild fight, in other words, with plenty of exchanges and swings in momentum. Nelson, despite his height, fought nearly as badly or maybe even worse on defense as fellow spindly semi-welterweight Paul Williams, and he paid for it. Arroyo countered him when he didn’t have his back against the ropes, and sometimes even when he did.
That there were so many upsets of youngsters Friday could mean one thing or it could mean another: It could mean that these prospects weren’t as good as we thought they were, or it could mean that they were put in tough and just didn’t pass the tests. I suspect, as far as ShoBox goes, it’s a little from column A and a little from column B. Time will tell, depending on whether the upsetters rise to the next level or the upsettees bounce back.